- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Even as it has become clear that the swine flu pandemic (at least in its current mutation) isn’t much more serious or deadly than normal flu, stories of prominent people getting infected with it continue to be covered as if they had contracted bubonic plague.
Probably the best way to put swine flu stories in perspective is to just remove the words “swine” or “H1N1″ from before the words “flu” and “virus.” For instance:
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has contracted the […] flu virus and is being treated by doctors while continuing to work from his residence, government spokesman Cesar Velasquez said on Sunday.
That doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?
I’m sorry for sounding flip. H1N1 is a legitimate public health concern that continues to claim lives around the globe. But still, when I see headlines like “Bangladesh reports first H1N1 flu death,” I have to wonder how many how many people in that country have died of normal flu (or any number of other diseases) this year without it warranting international media attention.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images